Bank crisis gives Brown poll boost

Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown holds a news conference at the end of a two-day EU summit in Brussels October 16, 2008. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s handling of the global credit crisis has eroded the opposition Conservatives’ lead in opinion polls, two surveys showed on Sunday.

A ComRes survey for the Independent on Sunday put the Conservatives just nine points ahead of Labour, their narrowest lead since March.

If repeated at the ballot box, the figures would give the Conservatives a majority in parliament. But Labour supporters will be heartened that the “Brown bounce,” sparked a month ago by the lead he took in dealing with the financial crisis, is being sustained.

The Conservatives opened up a 20 point lead over the summer, prompting calls from some in the Labour party for a leadership challenge ahead of the next election, which must be held by mid-2010.

Brown, who became prime minister last year after a decade as finance minister, has taken a leading role in the international response to the global credit crisis.

His plan to inject billions of pounds of taxpayers’ cash into major banks has set a template for other countries and helped put an end to his reputation for dithering.

An ICM survey for the News of the World found 54 percent of respondents felt Brown had done well battling the financial market turmoil. Only 36 percent said he had done badly.

The survey also found that Brown and his finance minister, Alistair Darling, were more trusted to handle the crisis than their Conservative counterparts, David Cameron and George Osborne.

Some 43 percent said they would prefer to have Brown and Darling in charge in the present circumstances, compared with 35 percent for Cameron and Osborne.

Reporting by Christina Fincher; editing by Elizabeth Piper